The Inner Jefferson
Andrew Burstein's The Inner Jefferson: Portrait of a Grieving Optimist at last demystifies the Jefferson of American legend and recovers the eighteenth-century man of sentiment Thomas Jefferson actually was. Burstein confronts widespread misunderstandings about Jefferson's romantic life and provides insight into the contradictions that still surround our third president. He shows Jefferson to have been a man of substance and character, yet possessed of a mean streak, alternately strong and frail, convivial and reclusive, ordinary and extraordinary. Burstein contends that the key to understanding Jefferson's consciousness lies in interpreting the passion expressed in intimate correspondence. Examining seven decades of letters and private accounts, Burstein shows us how Jefferson responded to what he read and how he used particular words and metaphors to express his hopes as well as anxieties and personal trials. The Jefferson revealed is not static; his mind develops over several decades. The Inner Jefferson removes our modern preconceptions and re-creates the mental and moral world of the eighteenth century. Burstein discovers how in the wake of the American Revolution this retiring Virginian could become to some a popular idol while appearing to others a cold and calculating subversive.
- 1995 Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia
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